(Still) gotta catch ’em all

Wyatt Ryder’s buddy Mr Snips was a constant companion in Pokemon Scarlet.
Wyatt Ryder’s buddy Mr Snips was a constant companion in Pokemon Scarlet.
From: Nintendo
For: Switch


Minty, Spooky, Crunchy, Lady, Goku and Mr Snips. That’s my squad. My new best friends.

There is no game series that captures the feeling of befriending and naming a crew of monsters better than Pokemon, and Scarlet is no exception.

While the latest game in the series keeps the heart, it fails to evoke a greater sense of adventure.

Like every new Pokemon game, things are different, but the same.

Battle eight gyms, defeat the elite four, become the very best.

This time the standard gameplay loop has been shaken up, with two other sets of tasks to complete as well.

The first, my favourite, is hunting down mythical titan pokemon, humongous variants of the monsters we know and love.

The second is dismantling a local gang by taking on each of their leaders.

The twist is that the titans, crews and gym leaders can be taken on in any order. The only bottleneck is if you’re strong enough to beat them.

The free-roam world and gameplay offers more autonomy, but is far more stale as a result.

In the old games each town had a flavour. There was always something interesting.

Now they feel soulless and forgettable.

A lot of the new pokemon are fun, but most blend into the background.

The highlights for me were the final evolution of Minty (formally known as Sprigatito), my starter pokemon, who became a mischievous grass-dark type with an absurdly powerful unique move.

I picked up one of my classic favourites, a Mankey, to fill in a temporary slot. Imagine my surprise when I found out Mankey now had a third evolution. Not only that, but a really cool one.

Aside from that, I love the convergent evolution Pokemon has been doing lately, alternative forms of classics. The jellyfish pokemon Tentacool from the first generation now has a mushroom-themed alternative, called Toedscool. The tentacles have changed into legs.

It’s great. It’s really fun.

What’s even cooler are the paradox pokemon, which will vary depending on if you chose Scarlet or Violet. In Scarlet I got rugged ancestor pokemon from the past.

These powerful alternatives of modern pokemon are somewhat goofy, somewhat frightening.

A larger focus seems to have been put on creating more epic moments, which I greatly appreciate.

The final zone is laid out to be incredibly dramatic, the very last battle particularly.

There are also a lot of great times pokemon hang on when they should have fainted, which happens randomly. Few things have got me as hyped up as seeing "Mr Snips held on so you wouldn’t feel sad!".

There are lots of visually impressive cut-scenes, but they feel awkward without voice acting.

But issues aside, this is a solid entry to the franchise.

I do feel a little sad children playing Pokemon for their first time will miss the grand sense of adventure from those past games, but I think the core of the gameplay is strong enough that it does not matter.

They might not remember each town, but they will remember hunting down giant pokemon, moving through the dramatic battle and, most importantly, the joy of catching and raising pokemon.

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